The strength and all the nuances of self-portraits of women artists (Antoni Ribas Tur)

Taking self-portraits of the artist Cristina Núñez (Figueres, 1962) saved her from heroin in the late 1980s. She was then in her twenties and continued to take portraits to increase her self-esteem and because there found a creative stimulus. He also wanted to share it and has organized numerous self-portrait workshops. This therapeutic use of one’s own image is one of the lines of the new virtual exhibition that the writer and journalist Cristina Masanés has commissioned for the Network of Museums of Catalonia, Ways to say me. Self-portrait and women in the Network of Art Museums of Catalonia, available in this link.

In these self-portraits Cristina Núñez has a hard look, accentuated by the desert landscape in the background and the black leather jacket she wears. “I drove along the Camino de Santiago to make the book Heaven on Earth. It was the first time I returned to Spain to photograph my country “, the artist remembers. “I visited the same places where I had been fifteen years before during my rehabilitation,” he explains. Being alone in the desert made me go back in time. I wondered how I had been able to get through all this and still be alive. ” Important people from their past also returned. “I thought of my boyfriend Nasi, my first love Eddie, my friend Ramon, and then Jordi and Perla, and all the people who died around me, of AIDS, of overdose. Why me? I felt guilty. Somehow I had to return my luck. I had to do something to deserve to have survived. I had to become a speaker for them.

Against the topical images of women

A self-portrait of the artist from Palencia also has a crux Marina Nunez, where she can be seen scratching her legs, in an attempt to break with all the imagination that women have to carry. “For centuries, women are what is left out: of the norm, of the law, of the canon, of reason, of the world …”, says Cristina Masanés. “Of all the women painted, this figure is disturbed by the physical resemblance to the artist,” she also says of Marina Núñez’s painting. The exhibition includes 35 works by 32 artists from nine museums, such as the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Macba, the Girona Art Museum, the Jaume Morera Art Museum and the Tarragona Museum of Modern Art. There are also smaller ones, such as the Cerdanyola and Manresa Art Museums, whose work Masanés wants to vindicate.

The tour of the exhibition begins in the 19th century. Among the pioneers is the painter Pepita Teixidor (1865-1914), whose direct gaze on the viewer from a self-portrait owned by the MNAC seems to mean that it is much more than the conventional character of the painting. Precisely, Teixidor did not give in to the wishes of her father and brother to dedicate herself to portraiture, and she continued to paint flowers, an attitude that would be celebrated by others of the artists represented in the show, the Guerrilla Girls. With a poster with the slogan “And in Europe it’s worse” they riveted her feminist critique of American museums with the poster they had made with the slogan “Do women have to be naked to enter the Metropolitan Museum?”.

Cristina Masanés immersed herself in museum collections with doubts about what works she would find, and one of the attractions of the selection is the breadth of her gaze. It is striking to see conceptual works by Àngels Ribé and Fina Miralles from the perspective of the self-portrait. Also another photograph by Jo Spence, because it highlights again what the artist experienced as an author and at the same time a model for his critiques of the patriarchal representation of women, and how he later testified to his fight against cancer. “I took the idea of ​​self-portrait in a very broad sense, not only is there the traditional portrait of standing in front of the mirror and capturing the face, half figure or gaze, but there are also many conceptual practices, photography , performance and action, ”says the curator.

One of the most representative images of the broad meaning of the choice of works is one of the drawings made on a sheet by the Cuban Ana Mendieta because, instead of having her features, the character that appears in it could fit without being noticed in a prehistoric painting. On the other hand, her figure is related to the Guerrilla Girls, although unfortunately in a tragic way: Ana Mendieta died at the age of 36, after falling through the window of a 34th floor. Although her husband, minimalist sculptor Carl Andre, was judicially acquitted of her death, many feminist groups held him responsible, and the Guerrilla Girls and Women’s Action Coalition called a rally in 1992 in front of the Guggenheim. of New York to protest the great exhibition of Andrew.

Precisely the vulnerability of the body is the central theme of another of the pieces on display. Instead of the face, as he did Barbara Stammel in a leaflet about her and her sister, or any other visible organ, Laura Cirera painted on gauze a brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and stomach. “Hydrophilic gauze, this cotton fabric for sanitary use and small dimensions, turned into artistic material, evokes extreme fragility. The red color of the organs represented provides the blood element “, explains Masanés, who is also responsible for an exhibition at the Museu de l’Empordà where he has collected the works of some thirty women artists from the area, Paint, create, live. Women artists in the Alt Empordà (1830-1939).

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